Sonifying the news

Sound as a carrier of significant information

Sonification of data is a recent trend in data analysis where a musician, programmer or data scientist can create sounds or music using data as some form of a score expressing some inherent features in it. With sonification, we can provide means by which listeners can obtain new ideas about the nature of the source of derived data.

From studies, we have learned that sound conveys an aural representation of information, as well as non-linguistic information. Sonification and visualization techniques have many applications in "humanizing" information, especially when analyzing large and complex sets of data.

In this experiment, I decided to sonify and visualize multivariate data from navigation into the different sections of the news/showbiz site Visualization of this dataset can be expressed graphically, but in order to understand the dynamics, data relations, and interactions of the data, sonification creates a better representation [1].

In this sonification you will see how, music-making, sound design, and synthesis of sound increase the likelihood of exposing new features and interconnections that are hidden in traditional visual tools [2]. Data sonification can convey large datasets with many dimensions in an efficient and engaging way that reduces scientific literacy and numeracy barriers to understanding the underlying scientific data [3]. Even artists are using sonification to abandon human decision-making or scores to leave space for variation derived from incoming data and as a counterpoint to personal choice [4]. Furthermore, complex cognitive processing in humans can be achieved by using simple building blocks (musical tones without semantic properties) that create interesting interactions between music and language at many levels, allowing to convey deeper meaning with music [5], and in this case, with sonification.

If you have seen my music production video tutorials, you know that I like to rely on external data, even chaotic information to generate music. So why not? Maybe in the future, you will be turning to your music player to sing along to the weather forecast or to groove to the quarterly report.

I wrote the patch for this sonification using Max/MSP and Ableton Live. Max is a visual programming language for music and multimedia, and it has shown to be a great sonification tool acting as the middleware between data files and Ableton Live, which is a full Digital Audio Workstation for professional music production, sound design, and recording.


[1] Worrall, D. (2019) Sonification Design. From Data to Intelligible Soundfields. Springer Nature Switzerland. ISSN 2524-4477

[2] Gresham-Lancaster, S. (2012) Data Sonification; an emerging opportunity for graduate music/sound design departments to expand research in an art and science collaboration. University of Texas at Dallas.

[3] Sawe N., Chafe, C., Treviño, J. (2020) Using Data Sonification to Overcome Science Literacy, Numeracy, and Visualization Barriers in Science. Communication. Front. Commun. 5:46. doi: 10.3389/fcomm.2020.00046

[4] Sinclair, P. (2019) Sonification: what where how why artistic practice relating sonification to environments. AI & Society 27: Issue 2, pp 173-175.

[5] Patel, A. (2017) Using music to study the evolution of cognitive mechanisms relevant to language. Department of Psychology, Tufts University, Medford, MA, USA.